Roberto Díaz and James Button perform Oboe and Viola Concertos by Higdon

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Jennifer Higdon
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Higdon
WORKS: Viola Concerto; Oboe Concerto; All Things Majestic
PERFORMER: Roberto Díaz (viola), James Button (oboe); Nashville Symphony/ Giancarlo Guerrero
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559823

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The League of American Orchestras recently listed Jennifer Higdon as one of the most-performed living American composers. And on encountering her colourful and evocative writing, it is no surprise that Higdon’s works have met with such popular and critical acclaim, winning both a Grammy and a Pulitzer Prize in 2010.

This accessible disc has the celebratory All Things Majestic (2011) at its heart. Commissioned by Grand Teton Music Festival, this substantial work for orchestra responds to the mesmerising landscape of Jackson Hole in four ‘musical postcards’. The piece conveys a marvellous sense of wonder in the vastness and minutiae of the natural world, from the soaring brass chorales of ‘Teton Range’ to the raindrop delicacy of Higdon’s scoring for harp, strings and percussion in ‘Cathedrals’ – all performed with warmth and dynamism by the Nashville Symphony. Higdon’s Viola Concerto (2015) is striking in its playful, jazz-like rhythmic drive, carried off with great charisma by soloist Roberto Diaz, while the Oboe Concerto (2005) showcases the instrument’s lyricism and mischief, with a fine performance from James Button. Yet, without the colour of a programmatic backdrop, these concertos make for somewhat more formulaic listening, while it is in Higdon’s soaring evocation of the American landscape that this disc truly sparkles.

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Kate Wakeling